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How to Tailor an Optimal Q4 Retail Strategy

By Sherry Zhao
Sep 10, 2020 12:58 PM PT
e-commerce strategies

The Q4 shopping season, stretching from October until the New Year, has long been the most crucial and lucrative time of the year for retailers worldwide. This was never more true than in 2019, which found itself flaunting the distinction of being the first-ever trillion-dollar holiday shopping season.

This year, with all of the uncertainty surrounding the global pandemic, many consumer markets are faced with the fear of steep declines of in-person shopping, thus leading to a potential downtick in sales. This may seem daunting, but it should also serve as ample inspiration to develop a Q4 retail strategy well in advance.

Reduced foot traffic for in-store retailers may hamper the overall sales numbers posted in 2019. However, the rise in online shoppers -- a 25 percent increase compared to last year -- offers e-commerce retailers a key opportunity to refocus their Q4 retail strategies. While consumer habits and trends may have shifted, the key methods of attracting new and returning customers remain consistent.

Here are a few of the top strategies to adopt as we look ahead to this year's holiday shopping season.

Schedule Your Promotions

With the U.S. currently facing economic uncertainty and increased unemployment as a result of the pandemic, some retailers understandably are concerned that consumers will be hesitant to spend. There worries might be valid, but with the proper promotional schedule and strategy, companies can compensate for the current business climate and still surpass last year's output. Despite the fact that shoppers may be less likely to spend frivolously, there is a higher appeal for them to get their holiday shopping done during a promotional period like Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Many understand Cyber Monday to be the online version of Black Friday, and while, traditionally, there is some soundness to that belief, this does not prevent businesses from offering promotions on their e-commerce sites for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In fact, by utilizing both, especially in 2020's climate, companies can increase the likelihood of connecting with consumers on at least one of these days. More promotions lead to an increased traffic to websites; and thus a higher hit rate for online sales.

While in-store sales may not return in full this November, Cyber Monday sales this year are poised to grow even higher than the 19 percent increase we saw in 2019. With this incoming influx of orders, and potentially high rates of new customers, companies need to be prepared.

For retailers, this means taking a minimum of 45 days in advance to plan. Now is the time to start taking stock, communicating with suppliers, and making a plan. For those businesses that have a multichannel marketing plan in place, it is important to have everything ready to deploy well ahead of the celebration date.

Know Your Holidays

While getting promotions in place for major sales days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, takes some time, there are other Q4 holidays that require slightly less stress.

For example, for holidays like Halloween and Veteran's Day, two weeks should be enough time to prepare. Sure, Halloween may not bring in the type of revenue that Cyber Monday or Christmas might, but it does present the opportunity to introduce creative, holiday-specific marketing; and increase business.

Meanwhile, regional and local holidays can also boost sales. If there is a special day or event specific to your home market, then show your customers that you are engaged in the community by having a sale or updating your homepage and social media with a fun marketing campaign.

Another way to boost "holiday" sales is to be hyperaware of days unique to Q4 2020. For example, November 3 is Election Day in the United States, a day that comes around only once every four years. While politics may be extremely polarizing at the moment, sites can still be patriotic without alienating any potential customers, if that is a concern.

Christmas shopping can be a make or break event for Q4 sales. It is similar to Cyber Monday in the sense that it requires early planning. It is also key to remember that the Christmas shopping season doesn't end on the 24th. Businesses should plan for potential after Christmas sales or promotions to offset the inevitable returns coming from the folks who weren't thrilled with the gifts they received. Christmas, along with other December holidays, can be a lifeline to many businesses.

Although sales numbers and customer behavior are hard to predict for this year, Christmas provides certainty in an uncertain time. Despite many events being moved to different dates and foot traffic will likely be restricted, Christmas is not going anywhere. People have to do their shopping somehow, so this year is a massive opportunity for e-commerce sites.

Strategic Discount Offers

With your promotions planned and holidays marked on your calendar, the final crucial step to tailor an optimal Q4 retail strategy is to provide your consumers with the right discount. Too much of a discount and you hurt your business, too little and the customer may not see it as an incentive.

However, it doesn't always come down to the discount percentage that is being offered. When it comes to discounts and promo codes, CouponBirds found that customers are increasingly interested in site-wide incentives. Meaning that in many cases, a 10-percent-off site-wide code will be used more often than a 15 percent discount on select items.

Increased web traffic means more competition -- knowing a coupon is easy-to-use and applies to every purchase is essential. This allows consumers to shop for themselves and their loved ones in the easiest way possible. Fewer clicks and less time searching can translate to better shopping results.

Setting the right discount can also be utilized to capture repeat business or as a means to acquire customer emails. Pop-ups on e-commerce sites that incentivize shoppers to submit their email in order to receive a discount code on their first purchase provide value to the shopper and the seller. When a consumer follows the prompt, this type of discount virtually guarantees a sale, gives you information about your client base, and provides a way to contact customers to keep them up to date on your business. Because of these benefits, providing a slightly higher discount amount is not detrimental, and in fact can result in higher ROI from that shopper as time goes by, from future sales.

The unusual situation surrounding retailers in Q4 2020 can understandably cause some uncertainty. However, retailers need not fret. With the right discount strategy, coupled with promotional periods and holidays, e-commerce vendors can push last year's sales records and set themselves up for long-term success in an online-first future.


Sherry Zhao is Digital Marketing Manager at CouponBirds, where she is responsible for developing, implementing and managing marketing campaigns.


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